Scarface antihero Tony Montana is a titanic character, one cemented both in cinema and MTV Cribs history. Ferociously brought to life by Al Pacino, Montana is a terrifying, compulsively watchable POS. Yet when it comes to portraying a fearsome crime lord, Pacino was not necessarily equipped to accomplish the task. Let’s be honest: Pacino is no Dolph Lundgren-esque Adonis. He’s short. He’s scrappy. Still, Pacino manages to maintain a steely presence throughout the film. How? The obvious answer is acting. More specifically, he makes masterful use of spatial awareness.
Snorting mountains of blow is ill-advised, but there are situations in which you could benefit from a garnish of “Montanatude.” Take, for example, an important business meeting: Do you want to show weakness in front of your associates? Or would you rather portray the breed of badass “I am fully in charge” attitude Pacino conveys? Using scenes from the film, let’s break down precisely how to make the actor’s interpretation of Tony Montana work for you. Expletive-charged vocabulary not recommended (unless work culture permits).
THE TOUGH-GUY STARE
In the dishwasher scene, Tony immediately wants to project strength. He is fully aware of his desire to move up the criminal ladder, which begins with him firmly establishing the fact that he won’t settle. Omar Suarez, who later becomes Montana’s associate, tries to lull him into thinking there’s a limit to his ascension in the “game.” Tony proceeds to quash this notion via tough guy talk—and, more important, prolonged eye contact. His facial expression barely changes, even as Suarez tries to bring levity. His minimal blinking shows he’s unwavering, observing Suarez’s every move. Conversely, an averted gaze suggests weakness and anxiety. Despite ending in a moment of contentiousness, the seed Tony wishes to sow is set. He will not be walked on by those who are above him.
In any situation, whether you’re having a conversation with someone you’re interested in or you’re in the thick of a job interview, eye contact is crucial. Prolonged eye contact is paramount when addressing individuals, in particular towards those from whom you want respect.
FINGERS AND TOES
One of the most famous moments in Scarface is the “My balls and my word” speech Montana makes to Sosa, a wealthy drug leader in possession of all the things Montana rabidly desires. Over the course of lunch, Montana’s associate Omar Suarez is discovered to be a rat. Suarez is promptly hanged from a helicopter, allowing Sosa to sniff out whether Tony can be trusted. This is a pivotal scene: Tony has to project an air of absolute self-confidence. If he comes off as a liar, he risks the same fate. Take notice of how Montana addresses Sosa while facing him sideways. His stance mirrors that of a fighter. When addressing anyone for which Tony has antipathy, he stands with his weight on his back foot, sending the unconscious message he could launch into fight mode at any moment. What could be seen as aggressive comes off as authoritative.
The casual toss of the binoculars is equally important—an immediate show of trust. You wouldn’t throw something to someone you didn’t think would catch it. This nonverbal action immediately establishes that he respects Sosa. Tony makes this gesture over and over again, pointing at, around and in front of Sosa. This scrappy dude is totally controlling his opponent’s focus, forcing him to move through the idea with him, along with the emphasis he’s providing. Clearly, Montana’s successful: He doesn’t end up dangling dead from a helicopter. That’s the magic of good communication at work!
The lesson? Give trust to earn it from the other side. Show you’re willing to make the investment yourself. People are far less wary of those who seem equally as invested than those who seem skittish.
ALL OF YOU ARE HERE WITH ME
As Tony’s criminal empire teeters, we approach the scene when it all comes crashing down. Advising someone to act like him is about as illogical as Tony is unhinged by the head, so let’s focus on how Pacino-as-Montana successfully intimidates an entire restaurant. He adjusts his pants several times to increase his width and make himself seem larger. That telltale pointing gesture returns, followed by outstretched arms. Instead of choosing just a couple patrons to focus on, he indicts the whole crowd, bringing the accusations on everyone in equal measure. The diversification of attention tempts the audience to see where Tony might be coming from. Everyone is equally involved, and the dramatic moment is a success.
Here the lesson is simple and complex all at once: The key is presence. When you’re standing around at a bar, be comfortable taking up space. Nothing says “insecure” more than making yourself smaller. When making a general point, bring everyone into the idea with you and leave no one out. That way, people are far less likely to ignore you.
Ultimately, Pacino proves Yoda right: Size matters not. Maybe you don’t work out or you’re on the short side. That didn’t stop Montana and it shouldn’t stop you from commanding attention. He is a master of knowing his audience and how others receive him. Don’t go fighting cops with an assault rifle, but maybe you really can use just a bit of what Tony was selling. I’m not talking about coke; I’m talking about how he sells himself.